“The body of the plane is called the fuselage. On the rear side of each wing is a part that moves up and down called an aileron. Ailerons help the airplane turn right or left. Flaps help the airplane fly slowly for landing.”

Christine Price, a seventh-grader at Rockwood Valley Middle School, nods slowly as Chris Erkmann, a flight instructor with the Experimental Aviation Association, explains the different parts of an airplane.

Nearby, Christine’s mom, Carol, holds her daughter’s first pilot’s logbook. By the end of the day, Christine will have logged in her first airtime.

“My dad was a jet pilot in the Korean War,” explains Carol. “He also was a certified instructor … I was one of his students.”

Christine hopes to follow in the footsteps of her mother and grandfather and obtain her pilot’s license.

“What I really want to be is an astronaut,” Christine says. “It’s neat being up above the earth, instead of being stuck on the ground. And, one place I’ve never been before is up in space.”

It is a clear and sunny day, and the hum of airplanes is unmistakable as several fly over head at Thunder Aviation’s West Terminal, located at the Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield.

After completing the preflight inspection, Erkmann helps Christine buckle into the passenger’s seat and begins explaining the instrument panel. Before long, he pokes his head out the window, shouts “Clear!” and starts the engine. Soon, they are soaring 2,000 feet above ground.

On May 12, as many as 400 other Rockwood students will have the opportunity to take to the air — just like Christine — during Youth Aviation Day. Sponsored by the Young Eagles Program, in affiliation with the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), the day is intended to get kids up in the air and excited about aviation.

“It’s a day of education and an opportunity to instill the love of flying in children,” explains Erkmann.

Students can participate in ground school, where they can learn basic pilot and flight information and also will have the opportunity to meet Eric Lindbergh, the grandson of Charles Lindbergh.

“When I was a kid, I would dream about flying,” says Eric. “I built those model rockets and dreamt about going to space and becoming an astronaut. It’s important in my life to give some of that to other people, like children, the way it was brought to me.”
Erkmann himself has given airplane rides to more than 100 kids for the Young Eagles Program. Around the globe, more than 30,000 volunteer EAA pilots and members of other authorized aviation programs have helped welcome young people into the world of aviation.

“The goal is to give rides to 1 million kids by 2003,” he says.

Each student participating in the program will get his or her name added to the world’s largest logbook on display at the EAA Air Adventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wis.

Christine beams at the idea of that.

“It was neat,” she says once back on the ground again. “I got to see my own house and school.”

“She’s a natural!” Erkmann tells Christine’s mom.

Thunder Air Terminal 
18500 Edison Ave 
Spirit of St. Louis Airport 
Chesterfield, MO 63005

9 a.m. to 4 p.m., May 12
Free airplane rides for the first 400 children ages 8-17

Ground school, weather school and other avaition activities

Special appearance by Eric Lindbergh, grandson of Charles Lindbergh

Sign up early for a free airplane ride by calling 636.530.9386
Parents must be present to sign an insurance waiver form before flight